When Breastfeeding Doesn’t go to Plan

Nothing evokes more emotion; whether that be joy, love, anger, guilt or disappointment than the subject of breastfeeding and because at the time of writing this post for https://meetothermums.com/blog/view/wbfweek it was  World Breast Feeding Week I wanted to write a post on a subject that resonates so much with me and my path into motherhood.

For me the process of breastfeeding brought about all the above emotions, but mostly it generated an enormous amount of guilt and disappointment.

Breast is Best’

Source: NHS https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/maternity-and-breastfeeding/

Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for infants, and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant’s life.  Thereafter, breastfeeding should continue for as long as the mother and baby wish, while gradually introducing the baby to a more varied diet.

 In recent years, research has shown that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to have infections in the short-term such as gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections, and particularly infections requiring hospitalisation.  In the longer term, evidence suggests that infants who are not breastfed are more likely to become obese in later childhood, which means they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and tend to have slightly higher levels of blood pressure and blood cholesterol in adulthood.  For mothers, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.  A recent study also suggests a positive association between breastfeeding and parenting capability, particularly among single and low-income mothers.

 Results from the UK Infant Feeding Survey 2010 showed that 83% of women in England breastfed their babies after birth, 78% after two days and 57% at six weeks.

 I remember when I was pregnant with my first child hearing a friend remark about another friend who didn’t breastfeed.  I was shocked, why wouldn’t she breastfeed?  I couldn’t fathom why any mother wouldn’t choose to breastfeed her baby or wouldn’t want to breastfeed for that matter.

Fast forward to a year later; when my daughter was born at 34 weeks and spent the first three days of her life in an incubator being fed through a tube. What followed was the worst three weeks of my life as my husband and I watched our brand-new baby girl spend a further three weeks in a high dependency ward.   She had yet to gain the suckling reflex which does not begin until about the 32nd week of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks, often leaving premature babies with a weak suckling ability.

Of course, that didn’t stop the midwives in hospital grabbing my boobs and sticking them in my daughter’s tiny mouth.  I’ll also point out that my daughters head was so small I thought at one point my giant boobs might suffocate her but, of course we tried and tried to no avail.

 The times I wasn’t sat next to my daughter’s cot I’d head off to a small room; giant bottle of water in hand, breast pump and magazines at the ready and sit there balling my eyes out as I my pathetic milk supply trickled into the sterilised bottles.

The pressure I was put under was unbelievable and the stress I endured took me to breaking point on a number of occasions.   We would leave the hospital every evening and I’d set my alarm through the night to express my milk, whilst my baby girl was on her own in hospital ten miles away.  This stress didn’t exactly get my milk supply flowing but as determined as I was I pumped away and pumped away racked with the guilt that my idyllic perception of what life would be like with a new-born baby was now just a crappy distant memory.

Scrolling through my Twitter feed last night two tweets I came across that really struck a chord with me were:

 ‘Breast feeding is not a choice, it’s a responsibility’

And

‘Nursing your child is the most amazing feeling’

All great advice I may add but nonetheless just another reminder that the ideal is not always the reality.

Before children I just assumed that breastfeeding was a simple process and that it would feel so natural and magical.  So, I’m going to admit something that I haven’t really admitted to anyone before (exclusive revelation coming right up)

I didn’t enjoy it; nor did I find it magical, natural or easy.  GASP!

My son was born at 35 weeks and I came very close to getting it right; my attitude second time around was if I can I will but if I can’t I’m not going to beat myself up over it.  He struggled again with the suckling (maybe I just don’t have the right nipples) and we tried every position; the football hold, the lying down position, the sitting position, and the laid-back position.

I moved on to expressing when my son wasn’t gaining any weight and was unfortunately losing weight.  Many tears and guilt and anger followed when the local midwife came to our house daily to weigh my son and as she would leave I’d be racked with guilt that I was somehow failing again as a mother.

My daughter is now five and my son is one and both were fed on expressed milk topped up with formula for six weeks until I couldn’t do it anymore and moved on to exclusively feeding them formula milk.

I’ve often asked myself If I had felt the great joy and love that so many mums mention when they talk about their breastfeeding experiences; would I have done more, could I have found the strength and perseverance to push through?’

I’ll never be able to answer that question but I draw strength from the fact that both my children were fed; they never went hungry; they never lacked love; nurturing; care and warmth and they’re both happy, healthy incredible kids.

 Will it affect their health in later years? Who knows but I know I have gone to hell and back racked with guilt over not being able to breastfeed and I refuse to feel that guilt anymore.

Us mums are all doing our best to get by. Breastfeeding, expressing, formula feeding and learning as we go, making mistakes, rectifying those mistakes and doing all we can to raise our children to the best of our abilities.

 Nothing is ever black and white.

 

8 Comments

  1. It’s easy for someone who has had an easy time of it to be judgemental because they think they did it “right.” But just as with childbirth (which is almost completely out of one’s control), the reality is that we do our best, not “right” or “wrong.” After having had four children at this point, I can see that pretty much everything that has happened with my kids, whether during pregnancy, their births, or breastfeeding, has been a roll of the dice as to how it would go. I love all them equally, so how long I nursed each one had to do with THEM, not me. Know what I mean? And then, their little personalities directed me how to parent each of them. It’s really interesting to me how much more I understand about this whole motherhood thing the more I experience, the more time that goes by, and the more mamas I get to know (and hear their stories). Thanks for being so open about your experience! ((hugs))

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    1. Thank you for your comments Valerie and I think all we can ever do is our best whatever that may be. Loving our children and ensuring they’re happy healthy and fed and learning as we go is in My opinion what motherhood is about and you’re so right, they teach us how to parent along the way. Thank you for your kind comments and big hugs too xx 😘

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  2. This totally resonates with me and well done for saying it!! I’m still persevering with a little boob, but mainly my guy is using formula to grow. I’ve gone through all the emotions and even now I still feel guilty about bottle feeding in front of health professionals and breast feeding mums. Despite that, I really don’t enjoy breast feeding and would be delighted to move to exclusive bottle feeding asap. I am actually looking forward to him being older so it’s more acceptable not to be breast feeding any longer.

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    1. I’ve been meaning to comment on your last three posts Hun so apologies for being so rubbish but thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my post.. us mums have to stick together, it’s never easy and I had times where I just thought I was a useless mum and failing them from every angle but it does fall into place I promise. Big hugs to you and baby N, and look forward to reading your next post.. xx 😘

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      1. It’s so true that we need each other. I’ve gained so much solace from blogland! I feel like I’m constantly failing and that baby N missed out on having some kind of superwoman earth mother. I guess most of us feel like that and probably our mothers did too. The circle of life and all that! Thanks for you love. Right on back at you! xx

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      2. Yep we all feel like it!! 2am and I. Can’t sleep, 1 year old just had meltdown over something and my five year olds first day at school in morning and I’m panicking I’m going to forget something crucial ( like remembering to pick her up lol 😂) once a mum!! It never ends but then we have each other for support xx 😘

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      3. I think that’s totally normal!! I’m sure you’ll remember to pick her up and the other stuff doesn’t matter. My guy has been loudly grunting and straining all night as he’s a bit constipated so I’ve had about 5 mins sleep. With the entire day ahead of me I’m filled with dread. xx

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      4. awww poor baby; both mine were dairy intolerant so totally sympathise with you there. Do you have access to a formula milk for constipation? its easier for them to digest. Always makes me laugh when people say you should sleep when the baby sleeps lol!! take it easy hun and i’ll look forward to the next instalment xxx

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